Story: Tami Martin’s plate of responsibilities is full. She’s a whirlwind of activity as she cooks, cleans and caters to the whims of her family, including teenage daughter Lisa, son Josh and husband Bill. She may well have a full-time job outside the home, too, as could Bill. We don’t know that, though, because we’re focused on the maelstrom of movement in their home.
Recognition of stellar productions by nearly two dozen local theater companies will take center stage when the St. Louis Theater Circle presents its second annual awards ceremony honoring the best in local professional theater, on stage and behind the scenes, on Monday, March 17, 2014 at the Center of Creative Arts (COCA), 524 Trinity Avenue in University City.
Story: Boykin, Alabama, also known as Gee’s Bend, sits in a horseshoe-shaped turn of the Alabama River in western Alabama. It was founded in 1816 by Joseph Gee, a wealthy landowner from North Carolina who used slaves to work his cotton plantation. Eventually Gee’s descendants sold the property to a relative named Mark Pettway.
All of a sudden it’s nearing the end of December and thoughts of New Year’s resolutions dance in our heads. Before we enter 2014, however, let’s reflect on what the past year has given us on local stages.
Story: Elizabeth, a professional actress, is struggling to understand and accept a personal tragedy that has left her life tattered and torn. During a long flight layover, she renews her friendship with a photographer who shows her pictures of his recent travels. Among the photos is one of Thao, a 25-year-old Vietnamese woman who was born severely deformed as a result of Agent Orange.
Way back in the days when I was a lad, Labor Day marked the beginning of the school year. Now, of course, school districts and universities get their fall semesters underway a couple of weeks earlier.
Story: Jane Eyre, orphaned at an early age, is taken in by her mother’s brother and his family. After his death she is subject to ridicule and abuse by her aunt and cousins, and ultimately dispatched to the Lowood School for Girls at age 10. Living conditions at the institution are squalid, and many of Jane’s classmates die in a typhus epidemic.
DATE AND LOCATION CHANGED, CATERER ADDED FOR INAUGURAL ST. LOUIS THEATER CIRCLE AWARDS
Performances by local professional theater companies, ranging in size from The Muny and its productions in the 11,000-seat Forest Park amphitheater to small companies performing in modest spaces throughout the area, will be recognized at the inaugural Louie Awards.
Story: Mrs. Sorken, title character in the first skit, greets the audience to inform us about protocol and purpose behind the experience of attending the theater. She’s lost her notes, so she relies upon her somewhat scattered memory to give us a quick history about theater, drama and ancient Greeks, and how closely Dramamine is tied to drama. Who knew?
The year 2012 was tumultuous in many respects, so perhaps fittingly Wicked is the title of the production that brings down the curtain on the last 12 months. A record drought plagued the St. Louis area, temperatures sweltered in an elongated summer and the area’s economy staggered toward a slow but steady recovery. All of this took place in the face of impending doom predicted centuries ago by the Mayan calendar.
Story: Matt has comfortably hung out with Jesus for years in Portland, Ore. Or, at least, with whom he thought was Jesus. A chance encounter with St. Peter at a vegan restaurant leads to the disturbing realization, thanks to Pete’s explanation, that Matt’s invisible pal is merely an “imaginary Jesus,” affable though he may be.
Perfect! We applaud Nerinx Hall senior LILLY WEBSTER, who recently earned a perfect score on the ACT college admissions and placement exam. Only approximately one-tenth of 1 percent of students who take the test receive a top score. Lilly, an accomplished pianist, is a founding member and current president of the Academic Teams at Nerinx, and also has served as head of the set building crew for numerous musicals and plays. Proud parents are ALBERT WEBSTER and KRISTINA STIERHOLZ.
Story: The residents of sparsely populated Osbourne County, Kansas are preparing for an Independence Day celebration in 1871. At Maw Wheeler’s household, though, there are more immediate concerns. On a homestead where the primary crops are boredom and loneliness, Maw’s homespun wisdom and practical talents have a major influence on her hard-working daughter-in-law Sarah, who is pregnant with her fourth child and already has witnessed the death of a daughter.
Story: Leontes, king of Sicilia, suspects his pregnant wife Hermione of having an affair with his best friend, King Polixenes of Bohemia. He orders his assistant, Camillo, to poison Polixenes, but instead Camillo and Polixenes flee Sicilia. Leontes also demands that Hermione be imprisoned as a traitor, but the impartial Oracle declares that Hermione and Polixenes both are innocent. Leontes refuses to believe the Oracle, causing the death of his young son when he demands that Hermione be banished from the kingdom.
Story: Garish lights welcome visitors to the seedy confines of “Playland,” a traveling amusement park camped out over the holidays in a village located in the “karoo,” or semi-desert region of South Africa. It’s New Year’s Eve 1989, and Gideon Le Roux arrives at the park intent on welcoming in the new year with fellow revelers. Instead, he spends most of his time debating with Martinus Zoeloe, the watchman for Playland. Martinus tells Gideon that he’s there around the clock, giving up sleep in order to ensure that all is well with the booths and rides that provide fleeting entertainment for the villagers.
The year 2011 yielded an abundance of significant news in local theater. Eleven presentations stood out above the rest. In ascending order, here’s a list of the year’s best productions:
Story: On a street in downtown St. Louis, an amiable group of residents congregate after hearing a beacon call from John the Baptist. He heralds the arrival of his cousin Jesus, whom John proclaims is the long-awaited messiah. Jesus mingles with the friendly folks, telling stories to them that outline how a life should be lived, with the resultant reward in heaven or the torment of hell for those who ignore their brethren. One of Jesus' newfound disciples, Judas, becomes disillusioned and makes arrangements to betray Jesus to those in command. Jesus then is arrested and quickly executed, but his spirit continues to guide the residents.
Financial forecasters say that the Great Recession is winding down, with encouraging signs of an improving economy outweighing lingering negative effects such as high unemployment.
Play: “My Name Is Asher Lev”
Play: “My Name Is Asher Lev”
Some say that St. Louis in recent years has been experiencing a renaissance in theater, but I’m not entirely sure about that. While matching the second definition of ‘renaissance’ in my Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary as ‘a movement or period of vigorous artistic and intellectual activity,’ it doesn’t necessarily jibe with the third definition of ‘rebirth, revival.’
Play: Fiddler on the Roof
While 2008 is ending on a recessionary note economically, there’s little doubt that the St. Louis theater scene continues to grow, at least as far as the number of productions is concerned. In reviewing my notes about shows covered this year, I noticed that the number I saw in person, 128, was at least 85 short of the total presentations offered by touring, professional, community and college companies in the area. And that doesn’t count the dozens of performances offered by the burgeoning cabaret crowd.